The lobby in Richardson's new Alamo Drafthouse is still just bare concrete and metal, but they've already held what would, for any other theater, be an event almost impossible to top. Starting at seven, over two hundred lucky contest winners were ushered inside to an intimate auditorium decked out with dark red fabric on the walls and cinema reel light fixtures. The occasion: an advance screening of The World's End, the new film from director Edgar Wright and actors/co-writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
At the same time, a crowd of close to 3,000 was coming together--and had been since eight that morning--in the muggy parking lot for back-to-back screenings of Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). But whether you were inside or outside, what you were really there for was the chance to be in the presence of Wright, Pegg, and Frost themselves.
The trio, all English, have worked together since Spaced, a TV show on Britain's Channel 4 developed by Pegg and the actress Jessica Stevenson. Since then, they've become a phenomenon, but especially in circles that embrace what's too often derided as nerd culture--sci-fi, horror, comic books, and the like.
Shaun of the Dead, the team's first movie, saw them taking on the zombie genre. They reunited for Hot Fuzz, their take on the action flick, and in August they'll present The World's End, which combines a story about five friends returning to their old hometown for a pub crawl with a few sci-fi elements. Together, the films make up a loose trilogy known across the pond as the Cornetto Trilogy, but known here--because your average American doesn't know what a Cornetto is--as the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy. (A Cornetto is like our Drumstick, basically--which were also on hand, courtesy of the theater.)
Just after 8:40 p.m., the three of them were introduced one-by-one to the eager audience of contest winners for a special 30-minute Q&A that saw them answer standard fare--like who are your influences and what advice do you have for budding filmmakers--to more interesting questions, as when one woman asked Pegg, "If Spaced hadn't worked out, what would you and Nick be doing now?"
"We were going to buy some cottages by a loch, which is like a canal, and knock them through so we could live together," Pegg said.
"Do pottery and that," Frost added, drawing laughs. "Ethnic crafts."
In fact, before they hit it big, Pegg and Frost were roommates, and they recalled at one point not having anything to their name other than a wardrobe on its side, a TV/VHS combo and VHS box sets of The X-Files. "That's all we had," Pegg said, "That's where we've come from."
One young woman, who had not only flown from Canada for the event but had brought a specially decorated pair of Converse Chucks, was invited down to present the shoes to the trio. After describing how she'd accidentally botched the illustration for Pegg's character from The World's End--but appropriately so, if you've seen the movie--he asked, point blank, "You want to kiss me, right?"
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The young woman, blushing, covered her face and nodded as Pegg leaned in for a hug and a chaste peck on the lips. The audience exploded.
They were also presented with special gifts commissioned by Alamo: leather belts decorated with the Union Jack, the state of Texas, and their names. "Eight snakes had to die for mine," Frost said, holding his up.
As time began running out on the Q&A session, the trio blazed through the remaining questions before climbing aboard the Cowtown Cycle trolly waiting outside. Powered by bicycles, the Cowtown Cycle Party is a fixture of downtown Fort Worth, and an appropriate vehicle for the stars of a pub crawl movie to make their grand entrance on. The Alamo team called up Vicki Peden, Cowtown's operator, out of the blue to invite her to be a part of the event. As with the many local brewers and food trucks nestled behind the parking lot's gated-off screening area, Alamo's outdoor screenings have brought welcome exposure to unique services and food entrepreneurs. That includes Steve Porcari, co-founder of Four Corner Brewing in Dallas, who said, "There's kind of a tap war on right now," talking about the competition between local brewers to find a tap in area bars or restaurants.
Event latecomers had an easy time slipping into a parking spot and grafting onto the crowd. Others, worn out from the heat and the excitement, left just as Wright, Pegg, and Frost took the stage in front of Alamo's 40-foot inflatable screen. They officiated a few games, offered some words of appreciation to their ardent fans, then left the stage and disappeared into the dark. But any sadness the audience felt to see them go was quickly eased by the appearance of their cinematic doppelgangers projected against the big screen. And some cold, fresh beer, of course.